Stimulus package for proudly Zim brands

Oscar Habeenzu’s Tuktonic brand derives its name from superstar Oliver Mtukudzi

Stanely Mushava Literature Today
Book: Brand Ideology
Author: Oscar HabeenzuPublisher: (2013)

ZIMBABWE has not been spared by the cosmic juggernaut of globalisation.

While indigenous culture has long been identified as a casualty of this phenomenon, homegrown brands are also desperately clutching at their life rafts.

Others have ceded their stakes in the face of formidable competition from outside. Cyber arteries are spreading out against traditional protocols at the peril of the old order.

The global village is configured such that regions of higher concentration diffuse trends to vassals and surrogates.

Zimbabwe must move from being a perennial dumpsite. To this end, homegrown brands must emerge with the dominant agenda, products, ideas, art, fashion and values.

Efforts are afoot to push local brands on the domestic turf, itself an indictment on our international performance. Proudly Zimbabwean showstoppers must be posting shockwaves in offshore spheres instead of being propped up in their own cradle.

The mandate is long overdue to defrock our protracted swaddling bands, step up and hustle for the international arena.

The latest title from Oscar Habeenzu, “The Brand Ideology: Radical Insights on Radical Branding”, is a discursive case for arrogant local brands which can ride the storm of globalisation and make the “bag” big time.

Habeenzu, who chairs the Advertising and Publicity Club of Harare, has previously written “The Visibility Code”, “Everyone Online Zimbabwe”, “Badman Theology” and “Beyond Rebellion”.

The 2013 Most Influential Zimbabweans under 40 finalist has also co-authored “The Jubilian Controversy”, “The Cyberian Marketer” and “The Greatness Catalogue”.

“Brand Ideology” bases its opening brand radicalisation submissions on the dancehall tiff between Mavado, founder of the Gullyside brand, and the incarcerated Vybz Kartel, founder of the Gaza brand.

Habeenzu’s endorsement of Vybz Kartel’s work ethic for the purpose of the study has been apparently overtaken by events, following the Gaza lynchpin’s life imprisonment for murder.

However, this does not amount to a case for the ideological overhaul of Habeenzu’s ideas on radical brand positioning as they retain weight independent of the allusion.

The two alternative brands, Activist and Strategist, are depicted using the respective examples of Gullyside and Gaza which command pre-eminence in dancehall spheres.

A range of concepts including warlord, fireball, murderation, detox, bad acid, war school and cyberian brand metaphors are employed to deconstruct branding, positioning and growth.

The language of “Brand Ideology” is succinct, immediate, jolting and articulate.

The ideas are pushed as overt, stand-alone nuggets, refreshingly free of overused platitudes.

“A strategist brand stands out in the midst of adversity and criticisms, just as much as an activist brand stands out for a cause,” Habeenzu distinguishes.

“An activist brand is cause-related, appealing to emotions, internal warmth of belonging, whilst the strategist brand is cause-related too, but appealing to power, wealth and ownership,” he observes.

Activism is described as a conversational approach to promote, impede or direct social, political, economic or environmental change or statistics while strategism, being the origination of strategy in anticipation of challenges, is described as a militant and high level of planning to achieve set goals under conditions of uncertainty.

Habeenzu points out that while the two brands are inherently different such that none can be rated better than the other, multitudes are prone to follow power rather than weakness, hence the strategist edge.

The author makes his case in 23 brief chapters, striking the reader with his eccentric and random but perceptive and accessible observations and prescriptions.

The second chapter is a broadside against chief executive officers: “All protocols observed, MDs and CEOs in Zimbabwe have killed advertising,” Habeenzu protests.

“For some strange reason, CEOs deem themselves the Neil Armstrong of their advertising campaigns, whilst their teams are switched to idiot mode.

“Because the CEO signs the cheques, the agency, newspaper or even marketing will not dare say a single word. Meanwhile, we the visually starving consumers only dance to South African adverts. Alas!” he bemoans.

Meddling and inordinately cost- conscious CEOs who muzzle creativity are advised to quit their jobs instead of spreading their pessimism.

Habeenzu protests against billboards which look like business cards and adverts that resemble company profiles, owing to unsolicited conceptual interventions.

The CEO’s designation is identified as team leader as opposed to dictator or pope.

Habeenzu extends his observations to the entertainment industry to which he says performance measurement instruments must be transplanted from the Parliament.

Artists to position themselves as businesses, brands and assets not stage clowns.

“Musicians, especially young ones, are busy ‘testing their horns’ whilst the old school focuses on ‘paper manufacturing’ and complain why their music is being pirated. Clatter precedes piracy; as long as long as musicians focus on how big their horns are, the perpetuation of piracy will not cease,” he notes.

Reckless production, marketing and promotion of music without a basic grasp of the copyrighting, trademarking and contract management, an observation especially true in the case of the sprawling dancehall genre, is condemned. Music bricklayer Fred Zindi recently concurred.

The Warlord brand which is created to dominate is prescribed. Any brand which cannot make it to the league of the distinguished should be folded up.

“It is not a crime for a brand to be cocky, as long as it can deliver. How can it deliver without being infused with arrogance in the first place?” Habeenzu charges.

“There are lots of juvenile brands running town yet the actual warlords are still locked up in mediocrity and fear. The fact that your brand has been born actually means that it has offended at least one competitor, so why not continue with the offence perpetual?” he demands.

The Crowd Scientist is also commended, being a brand that rules the crowds. It is described as the brand that understands the aerodynamics of verbal energy.

The brand enthuses consumers and guarantees perpetual consumption with strategic verbal eruptions.

Packaging, language, positioning and surveys are deliberated even when unnecessary to ensure that the brand is on point all the time.

Derived from Africa’s superstar Oliver Mtukudzi, the Tuktonic brand is developed over the years paying particular attention to consistency, careful deliberation, specifics of language and style of delivery.

“A Tuktonic brand takes years of doing the same thing consistently for a growing audience and territory until become a continental phenomenon in its domain.

“A Tuktonic brand requires deliberate development of the basics of that brand and delivering to achieve customer satisfaction, even today it is one customer, knowing that tomorrow it will be more than a million customers. Tomorrow always comes,” Habeenzu exhorts.

Hard on Tuktonic coattails, by way of shrugging off initial rejection and staying the course to the point of mass acclamation, are Jah Prayzah, who set out with an obscure stint at Vybstar and Charles Charamba whose demo-tapes were successively spiked before both stormed to the presidium.

Brand romance, that impassioned art of looking one in the eye and making them believe that they are the only one – that time has stood still and the world has paused from its orbit just for two to tango – is prescribed as key.

“The consumer in Zimbabwe now has so much choice that certain brands now need to go out of their way to chat up and win the heart of the consumer,” Habeenzu notes.

He objects to the obtaining scenario whereby many local brands are competitor-oriented, paying scant regard to the consumer along the way.

Also up for troubleshooting is a fundamental flaw in how Zimbabwean heroes, dating back to the early kings, have been sold to us thanks to embedded history.

Our recollection of early kings and liberation icons registers images of defeat, imprisonment and hangings, faltering against the heroic movies, animation and books of Eastern and Western kings, lords, and heroes we are daily inundated with.

“When will the day come when the heroic stories of these early kings and queens will not only be told, but sold as Abraham or King Arthur were told and are sold?” Habeenzu provokes.


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